Making The Case for Outdoor Learning

Research, reports, policy documents and news items in support of Outdoor Learning


The demand for Outdoor Learning programmes is increasing and strong cases are being made in support of the value of Outdoor Learning. All the following documents in this blog have a connection to the benefits of getting active, sharing an adventure, and enjoying the outdoors. This is dynamic and growing resource - please get in touch to suggest or share an entry.

You can find some key research papers here covering effective policy and practice in the sector. If you are looking to get involved in regional research, follow this link to find the research hub closest to you.


/ Categories: Personal, , Active, Outdoor

What Works briefing on natural environment based health interventions

2019 : Becca Lovell (1) , Ben Wheeler (1) , Kerryn Husk (2) , Kathryn Machray (3), and Mike Depledge1 (1)University of Exeter Medical School, (2)NIHR CLAHRC South West Peninsula, Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry, (3)MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow

The UK faces considerable health challenges including rising rates of non-communicable diseases [1], chronic disability and persistent socio-economic related inequalities in health outcomes and their contributory risk factors such as low levels of physical activity. A growing body of evidence suggests that the use of natural environment is associated with better health outcomes and may potentially be of value as a resource in tackling some of our most intractable health issues [2, 3]. There is increasing interest as to how the natural environment could be utilised as a health promotion tool, setting or context in which to address the increasing burden of health problems. Many types of natural environment - from the National Parks, with their protected environments with high levels of biodiversity and culturally important spaces, to urban greenspaces, close to large populations offering spaces for physical activity and stress relief - could have a role in public health promotion or as a therapeutic setting. As of yet there have been few attempts to draw together and synthesise evidence specifically relating to which natural environment based health interventions work, for whom, in what circumstances, and why. Similarly, there has been little effort to map provision, identify systems through which interventions can be most effectively delivered, or to identify cost-effective approaches. This report for Defra, completed in 2018, provides a scoping review of ‘what works’ in nature based health interventions.


..... What works in nature based health intervention design, implementation and delivery

Project evaluations and reports provide some indications of effective approaches to intervention design, implementation and delivery. Key evidence based factors include: making use of theory based intervention design; building on best practice in formal public health intervention design and implementation; appropriate targeting of interventions; engaging communities in intervention design and delivery; flexibility in design and delivery; embedding the intervention within wider provision; making use of behaviour change approaches; and settings based interventions. The outcomes of, and lessons learnt through existing provision, such as the Nature4Health programme, based in the Liverpool region and led by the Mersey Forest [4] and the four case studies examined for this review (Gardening activities; Birmingham Active parks; Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out programme; and Natural Resources Wales’ Come Outside! Programme) provide helpful guidance on best practice in intervention delivery.

The Nature4Health team identified the following factors as contributing to the success of their interventions [4]:

• Tailoring activities to fit with the local culture

• Projects cannot simply have a physical health focus – social interaction is critical

• Effective monitoring and evaluation is crucial, to inform future delivery and refine projects

• There is a need to be proactive and flexible in delivery

There is currently very little information on the cost-effectiveness of interventions, however the limited available evidence suggests that interventions tend to be cost effective.

Previous Article Do Experiences With Nature Promote Learning? Converging Evidence of a Cause-and-Effect Relationship
Next Article What Works in school based natural environment interventions: A scoping review
20567 Rate this article:
No rating

Documents to download



Warwick Mill Business Centre, Warwick Bridge, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA4 8RR

+44 (0)1228 564580


What we collect and why

Name, Email Address, Phone Number (optional). Only if you provide it to us in order to contact you or to use our services.

Your Privacy

Who we share with

We will never sell your personal data to 3rd parties. We may share your personal data with our suppliers in order to provide our online and member services to you.

Copyright 2022 Institute for Outdoor Learning Terms Of Use Privacy Statement
Back To Top